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Confidential: From the Desk of Dan Beebe

The Case for the Big 12 Conference

Well, a couple months back this was probably on his desk...  A few weeks back Texas Tech's blog, I Am The 12th Man, posted a link to 60 pages of emails from the since averted crisis.  Many of the emails were merely press releases and relevant articles; however, some were top secret.  Probably the most important was an essay from the commissioner himself, making his case for the Big XII (it's found on page 39 of the Google Doc if you want the original piece).

Beebe's introduction is directed at Texas: "the Conference has not had the benefit of even a first generation that has grown up following his or her institutions solely as a part of the Big 12."  It's not surprising Beebe is appealing to Texas.  As the fate of the Southwest Conference before it, the Big XII's future is hogtied to the Longhorns.  As a football power with a national fanbase, not to mention its influence on A&M, Texas Tech, and (to a lesser extent) Baylor, Texas has all the cards.  Had Texas bailed, there's not doubt in my mind that the Big XII would have disintegrated shortly thereafter.  At some point Texas' seemingly infinite power influence (see unequal revenue sharing, personal TV network, conference headquarters, etc.) will probably alienate the remaining member institutions (see Nebraska).  No one likes a dictator; while the member schools were willing to sacrifice to save the Conference from the worst, they won't stand for the current agreements forever.  It won't be long before the crisis will fade from memory (frankly, we might be there now), and the Missouri's and Kansas's of the worlds will want their say.

Beebe continues by addressing the controversial revenue sharing, or lack thereof, within the Big XII: "It is interesting that the two conferences that pose the most threat to poaching our members, the Big 10 and Pac 10, have opposite approaches to division of television revenue."  While that's certainly an interesting point, it doesn't refute anyone's reasons for leaving the Conference.  Part of the problem with the Big XII's current instability is that there are different opinions on revenue sharing.  Clearly, Texas wants unequal sharing: it's the breadwinner, and it wants its due.  However, this leaves other schools, like Missouri, wanting a more equal share.  But Missouri and Nebraska never wanted to go to the Pac 10, with its unequal revenue (setting aside geographic difficulties); they both lusted after the equal shares of the Big 10.  As for Texas, they flirted mostly with the Pac 10 (at least according to rumors at the time), because they weren't interested in doling out their earnings to less successful institutions.  As for Colorado, they jumped early; I'd be shocked if the Buffaloes thought that there was a future in the Big XII when they jumped aboard the new Pac 10 with a nasty fee for leaving to boot.

The rest of my analysis after the jump.

As for Beebe's following proclamation that both conferences are stable, it's true.  They are stable, but that doesn't mean that the Big XII was / is.  The Big XII is unique in its situation largely because of its recent renaissance: the historic Big 8 teams aren't the ones making all the money; Kansas' and Missouri's revenue pales in comparison to Texas' yearly haul.  The Pac 10 also deals with geographic isolation: if Washington State feels used, where are they going to go?  Jump out of the BCS boat and swim for the WAC?  I don't think so.  As for the Big 10, they have the history and revenue sharing to make them one of (if not the) most stable conferences in the country.  Looking at relative population and overall talent, they shouldn't make nearly as much money as the SEC (where college football rules the land with an iron fist).  But thanks to some aggressive media moves (hello Big Ten Network), they have the highest revenue!  Of course the Conference with the highest revenue is stable.

Beebe's evidence against the Big 10:

"I hope full consideration is given to linking the future with a part of the country that is losing population and tax base relative to the Sun Belt.  In addition, disconnecting with the Sun Belt region may result in removing significant contact with a region where many alums and fans reside, not to mention a fertile recruiting ground for students and student-athletes."

 Beebe's primary reason not to run to the Big 10 is that the northern midwest is slowly dying.  He forgot to mention LeBron James left!  Oh, and all of the Big XII fans will be mad and won't share their talented prospects with you!  For those of you keeping score at home, Nebraska shouldn't be expecting a high birthrate or any of Dan Beebe's children for recruits.  And I'd also like to point out that we at Big 12 Hoops have been doing our part by excluding Colorado and Nebraska wherever possible.  Beebe does bring up a possible name change.  I know there's already a Sun Belt Conference, but I'm sure we could use our lucrative dealings to buy up the name (like a basketball player pays for his jersey).  Or we could compromise with the Big Belt Conference.  It's catchy and it leaves numbers totally out of the equation so we can expand or collapse as much as we feel like.

On to the Pac 10!  Unfortunately, Beebe admitted the West is part of the American Dream, so it'd be natural to drift that way, but don't think that means the Pac 10 is any picnic.  "The facilities and fair weather fans are a disappointment."  Haven't you seen Lakers' games?!?!  In the Kobe-wasn't-good-enough-to-win-without-Gasol era, there weren't any celebrities to be found.  Consider yourself warned, Texas: when you go to rile up Washington State with a swift "hook ‘em horns," the Cougars are liable to just shrug their collective shoulders and go back to thanking god they aren't in Idaho.  In all seriousness though, the Big XII does have some unbelievable rivalries, which I think Beebe was trying to point out.  He probably should have done a little more positive recruitment and saved the side remarks for one-on-one conversations, but I'm not a Conference Czar.

Overall, I think Beebe does a pretty good job addressing the dangers of conference expansion.  Do I think this essay made Texas cancel their California vacation?  No, we all know who runs the show in the Big XII.  I do think this essay reflects the extraordinary stress Beebe was under this summer.  For now, I think everyone is happy with the outcome: the Pac 10 and Big 10 expanded without destroying the stability of national athletics; the Big XII became a deep, top to bottom, basketball conference (dividing the same amount of money less ways, no less); and Texas got it's own TV network.  Now we can go back to worrying about basketball, and leave the politics for the future (hopefully a rather distant one).